Make em go ohohoh as you shoot across the sky ayay

Trip Start Dec 17, 2010
Trip End Apr 26, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Valencian Country,
Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 19th this year was interesting for 3 big reasons.  First of all, it was Father's day in Spain, so happy Father's Day to all those dads out there reading this.  Second of all, the moon was really close to the earth, like the closest it's been in my life or something.  I hope you saw it.  Third, and most importantly, I went to Valencia for Las fallas.  Woah. 

Friday night I made the bad decision of going out.  I only have 2 more Fridays left in Alicante, so I wasn't about to miss it.  I got in bed at 4.  On Saturday morning, our bus left at 8:30.  My alarm went off at 7:45.  I looked at it and thought "why the $#!% did I set an alarm on a Saturday?" and then I went back to sleep.  Fortunately, my friend Felicia had the feeling that I was probably still asleep so she gave me a call and got my butt to the bus stop just in time.

I couldn't sleep on the bus because our guide was talking the whole time.  The most interesting he said the whole time was that the Valencian community has the most castles of any autonomous community in Spain (I believe it, Alicante has 2, and every little city that we passed had one built on it's highest point.)  And Valencia also has the most mountains per square kilometer (Take that Pyrenees).  We got to Valencia a little after 11.  First stop was Starbucks.  

Las fallas is a super big week-long party.  The biggest celebration, la crema, is always on March 19, and when it falls on a week day, the population of Valencia triples.  You can't even imagine what it was like on a Saturday.  People come from all over Spain.  This was great, because I got to see some TU friends!!  Emily, Elizabeth, and Ali.  We met up in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento to wait for the Mascleta.  Mascleta was a fireworks show at 2 pm.  Obviously, since it's the middle of the afternoon, the point is not to see the fireworks.  The point is to hear them and feel the rumble.  The future audiologist in me cringed.  It was so loud.  The ground was shaking.  We saw the main Mascleta, but each barrio has it's own, so there was a continuous rumble throughout the city for a full hour.  

Next we walked around to take some pictures of the fallas, which are basically giant papier mache and wood sculptures.  Each barrio spends all year building one or two fallas.  They are all judged, and one is chosen to be pardoned and preserved in the fallas museum.  The rest get burned on March 19th.  They're all incredibly detailed caricatures of some aspect of society.  The descriptions of the significance of each was written in Valenciano, so I didn't really get most of them, but they were so cool to look at.

We also went to the cathedral and saw a giant flower statue of the Virgin Mary.  On the 18th, there's a procession of presenting flowers to the Virgin to make her dress.  It apparently lasts 7 hours or something like that.  It's amazing how, in Spain, incredibly solemn ceremonies can be included in some of the wildest and most pagan fiestas.  A lot like the contrast of Ash Wednesday with the entierro de la Sardina.  

At 4, we met up with Emily's parents and sister.  I'm so jealous of everybody's family visiting!  We all walked to the royal gardens where I laid down on the grass and took a super short, but incredibly refreshing nap.        

After that, we went to mass at the cathedral.  It was really weird because the cathedral is a big tourist attraction and there were so many tourists in the city for las fallas, so people kept walking in and out and taking pictures.  I felt like we were part of a display.  Catholics in their natural habitat.  Mass, as always in Spain, was incredibly short.  I really liked the bishop's Spanish.  He spoke so clearly that even when I zoned out during the homily, I could jump back in without any problem. 

After mass, Elizabeth's parents got us paella for dinner (as always, the best part about friends' parents visiting).  I went to Starbucks again, mostly to use their bathroom, so I've now been to every single one in Valencia.  Then the 5 of us sat in a park and talked for a few hours to pass the time.  I'm guessing that there aren't any laws controlling fireworks, because when we were at the park, there were dozens of people of all ages setting off every type of fireworks.  At first, I jumped every time I heard an explosion, but eventually I didn't even notice it anymore.  I can't believe I didn't see anybody get injured.  People were throwing fire crackers on the ground in the middle of big groups of people.  Even little kids were lighting fireworks and running away.  I guess Americans are overly cautious about these things.  Everybody seemed fine.

La crema, or the burning of the fallas, started at 10 pm.  They burned the little ones first.  At midnight, they started the burning of the biggest fallas.  The biggest of all was at 1 in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento.  We saw one of the midnight ones.  There was a big crowd around it already by 11:30 and then the firemen showed up and somehow managed to get their truck through the crowd.  I'm not sure how it happened (The Valenciano word for firemen, by the way, is bombers).  Each crema only took a few minutes.  They launched a few fireworks into the sculptures and then they burst into flames and were completely incinerated in a minute or two.  Then the firemen moved on to another one.  We moved to see the big show in Plaza de Ayuntamiento.  

 They had a huge section around the sculpture gated off, so everybody was packed into the remaining space so tightly.  This didn't stop people from through fire crackers at the ground.  The group of Spanish people standing next to us were playing some sort of drinking game.  From what I could tell, they threw a fire cracker at the ground.  Based on how long it took to explode, they chose a person.  Then they sang a song that ended with a long ooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh until that person finished their drink.  It made the long wait a little more fun (to watch, not play, mind you).  

 Right at midnight, the big fireworks show started.  They were right above us.  I didn't even notice that I was looking straight up until ashes started to fall into my eyes.  It was almost as loud as the Mascleta, but way prettier.  Then one of the falleras (some sort of pageant queen?  I'm not really sure) made some sort of announcement and lit a string of fire crackers leading from a balcony to the giant statue.  The statue burst into flames.  There were fireworks embedded in it, so the show kept going.  The whole thing was over and people started to leave at 12:30.  Our bus back home wasn't until 3:30 though.  That was a very long and dreamlike 3 hours.  I had a hard time sleeping on the bus ride home because it was so cold.  I didn't have the energy to shower when I got home, so now my bed smells like sulfur and campfire, but I slept like a baby.  

 Next weekend is my last one in Alicante.  I can't believe it.  Tons of homework to get done this week and the next.        

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Maria Puhl on

Your last weekend in Alicante ahhh!!! I bet you're freaking out,!

La crema thing sounds super cool - the pyromaniac in me loves the idea of building things to burn them all.

And good job on going to every Starbucks in Valencia... I went to my first Starbucks in probably about a year today...... it was our hung over omg we need coffee stop.

And i'm tired, hence the short comment.

Dad on

I agree - there's a huge pagan feel to a lot of your stories, Elaine. Be careful.

Grandpa on

We just arrived at Puesta Del Sol in Nicaragua. Our previous port was El Tigre, not the tapas joint but the Isla in Honduras. Now I have caught up with all your blogs. Remember, what is thought to be pagan is oft in the eye of the believer. Your berbida preferences seem to make my cervesa diet rather tame. Just watch out for your liver.

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